Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Singapore, Malaysia loosen Covid curbs at busy land crossing



Singapore, Malaysia loosen Covid curbs at busy land crossing

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Passengers wait to board a bus in Singapore to cross the border overland to Malaysia's southern state of Johor under the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between the two countries.

Singapore, Malaysia loosen Covid curbs at busy land crossing

Malaysia and Singapore eased coronavirus travel restrictions on one of the world’s busiest land borders on November 29 after nearly two years, allowing some vaccinated people to cross without quarantine.

Before the pandemic, about 300,000 people used to commute across the border from Malaysia every day to the neighbouring city-state, to work in areas ranging from public transport to electronics manufacturing.

But most travel was abruptly halted in March, 2020, leaving many who previously commuted, and other Malaysians in Singapore, effectively stuck there as they needed to continue working.

From November 29, vaccinated Singaporean and Malaysian citizens, those holding permanent residency status and work permits can cross the 1km causeway separating the countries without having to quarantine.

“I feel happy to be able to go back and meet my family finally after two years,” Eunice Teoh, a Malaysian getting the first bus from Singapore under the scheme, said.

“I do feel a bit nervous because this is the first batch, and I’m not really sure what will happen,” added the 28-year-old, who works in finance and was heading to the Malaysian state of Pahang.

Initially, around 3,000 people a day will be able to cross using special bus services, and will have to take virus tests.

Officials say the first stage is aimed at workers who have been unable to see families for some time, and they plan to expand it later to other groups.

Counting down the days

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob made an official visit to the city-state to mark the start of the initiative, doing a fist-bump with Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong as they met at a border checkpoint on the causeway.

Restrictions were also eased on November 29 on air travel, with vaccinated people allowed to fly between the countries’ main airports without quarantining.

Christine Soong was heading from Malaysia to visit family members in Singapore.

“I have three [grandchildren] and they all miss me so much, so they’re very excited,” the 69-year-old said at Kuala Lumpur airport.

“They’ve been counting down the days since we booked the flight.”

Prior to the easing of curbs, citizens and some other groups were still allowed to travel between the neighbours, but they had to quarantine on arrival.

Both Malaysia and Singapore – which were part of the same country during a stormy, two-year union in the 1960s – have high vaccination rates.

Singapore’s outbreak has been mild by global standards, although Malaysia faced a serious wave this year driven by the Delta variant.

Malaysians have long been a key part of the workforce of wealthier Singapore, which has a population of just 5.5 million, and then can typically earn higher salaries than back home.

The easing of curbs comes despite the emergence last week of the heavily mutated Omicron strain, which is starting to spread around the world.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Mr Pancake or M Crepe? Tasty by any title

    Crowds of people gather around a lone man with a mobile food cart every day at around 2pm in front of the Institut Francais du Cambodge to order what many say are the best crepes in Phnom Penh. To some – even to the man making

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Phnom Penh condo market loses steam

    Just four new condominiums were launched for sale last year in the capital, down from 17 in 2020, according to research by CBRE Cambodia. The four developments comprised “more than 1,000” units, while the 17 in 2020 consisted of 10,866, the real estate firm reported. CBRE Cambodia categorises condos as “high-range”, “

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused